Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Paradoxical Board

A paradoxical board can set the tones to practice situational leadership, advocate changes, improve effectiveness, manage emotions and drive digital continuum.

Corporate Boards are there to oversee business strategy and hold the senior executive team accountable for execution, to ensure reasonable governance. The board also sets leadership tone for advocating innovation and driving changes. The businesses environment today is full of uncertainty and ambiguity, a paradoxical board is leveraging BALANCE as a management philosophy in leading digital transformation seamlessly.

Digital BoDs need to be specialized generalists to leverage both leadership influence and expert power: As the top advisor to the business leader, BoDs should have the breadth of knowledge to bring up an outlier’ view, with the "T-shaped" expertise to provide an in-depth understanding of the varying topics in the boardroom. Because "generic" leaders probably existed in the past when the complexities in life were less, technical competencies required minimal, and those being led were less intellectually challenging to lead, motivate and manage. However, the digital natives and digital immigrants today are exposed to much more information and can easily acquire knowledge in most areas they want to engage in. BoDs as senior leaders, need to see the full spectrum of colors and embrace the seemly paradoxical point of views in order to understand things holistically. They should build the breadth of leadership capabilities and wisdom to handle many situations, also have “T-Shaped” knowledge to practice “expert power” for enforcing directorship effectiveness.
Digital BoDs have to strike the right balance of performance and conformance: The Board's role, in large part, is to make effective decisions that enhance the value creation for the organization. Boards need to make laser-focused performance driven agenda to help the business thriving. They should focus on their own performance as well as the performance of the management team; and, that performance is not limited to financial performance, but also to the firm's performance in creating value for employees and customers. The real BoDs dilemma is that driving the business forward is extremely difficult. This means looking into an unknown future and attempting to define the landscape with its risks and opportunities. Thus, conformance is critical for the business’s survival. To some degree, conformance is inherent within the value-driven performance. It also means taking control of the softer issues such as setting policy, strategic thinking, setting risk appetite, etc.

Digital BoDs should be effective with constructive emotions: The board plays a critical role in overseeing business strategy, it is important to keep the board strategic focused on improving its effectiveness. Also, the board as the top leadership team advise business strategy, it doesn’t always mean Board itself is being strategic enough. BoDs need to educate themselves by hearing different views about the organization, its environment and digital ecosystem, strategic alternatives and develop the clear vision on how to move the business forward. Many times, some good leaders are the ones that have a broad instinct to business and that act emotionally. The question is whether they can conciliate the needs of high-level standard practices with good communication skills. Emotion shouldn’t put the business at too high risk. Directors need have high EQ maturity and discretion that can guide businesses wisely, and guide them not only with strict numbers but with constructive emotion.

The best practice to deal with management paradox is to strike the right balance, no silo thinking, no binary or extreme thinking. A paradoxical board can set the tones to practice situational leadership, advocate changes, improve effectiveness, manage emotions and drive digital continuum in an elegant and innovative way.  


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